A profile of academic staff

September 16, 2016

Statistics Canada has important news for the university community: the full-time University and College Academic Staff System (UCASS) is back!

Statistics Canada conducted this survey annually from 1937 to 2011 to present a national picture of the socioeconomic characteristics of full-time academic staff working in universities. To meet targets announced in Budget 2012, Statistics Canada refocused some of its resources, and, as a result, cancelled the UCASS. The survey is being reinstated as of 2016-2017 in response to continuing demand for the data.

"We are looking forward to providing our data users with this information," says Michael Martin, Chief of Statistics Canada's Centre for Education Statistics. "The survey provides a way to understand how the university environment is changing and to plan for the future needs of students and university teaching staff."

Collection starts in September 2016 for about 120 Canadian universities, with the first results to be released in April 2017.

Who benefits?

The UCASS collects data on a wide range of socioeconomic characteristics that provide a detailed portrait of full-time academic staff in Canada. The data collected include gender, age, principal subject taught, salary and administrative stipends, province or country of degrees earned, and academic rank.

This information helps data users―governments, higher-education institutions, researchers, policy analysts and the public―understand how universities are evolving. The UCASS data are used in system-wide studies of employment patterns, gender-based analyses, and studies on the aging of teaching staff. They also have implications for workforce renewal, salary analysis for contract negotiations, projections of demand, and international comparative statistics.

Sound practices

The target population of this survey is full-time academic staff in public universities whose term of appointment is no less than 12 months. This roster includes all teaching staff within faculties, academic staff in teaching hospitals, visiting academic staff in faculties, and research staff who have an academic rank and salary similar to those of teaching staff. Other staff, such as administrative non-academic support staff, librarians, and teaching and research assistants, are not included in the survey.

This mandatory survey is a census of all public universities in Canada; therefore, there is no sampling. The information is collected for each individual academic staff member employed by universities as of October 1 of the academic year. In 2010/2011, the last year for which Statistics Canada data are available, the response rate to this survey was 100%.

Statistics Canada ensures the confidentiality of data by taking sound measures to prevent individuals from being identified. For instance, data at the individual level are never released. Salary data by academic rank for institutions with fewer than 100 staff members are not released either.

Recovering data

The Ontario university community already had a data exchange for the UCASS in place, which was managed by Western University. After the survey was discontinued in 2012, Western University agreed to expand this collection nationally in association with the National Vice-Presidents' Academic Council. Data for approximately 60% of Canadian universities have been collected through this program.

Statistics Canada will work in collaboration with Western University and the other universities to gather these data where possible.

Moving forward

While the restart of the UCASS responds to the need for information on full-time university academic staff, there has also been a call for more information on both the college sector and part-time university teaching staff. (Despite its name, the survey has limited its collection to full-time university academic staff.) With the reinstatement, Statistics Canada will work towards expanding data collection to include colleges and part-time academic staff.

"This year, the survey questionnaire and target population are exactly the same as for 2010/2011. Moving forward, Canadian universities are continually changing, and, with the possible additions of college and part-time information, we will be closely collaborating with our stakeholders and partners to ensure the data are relevant and timely," says Teresa Omiecinski, the survey manager.

Thanks to its reliable, high-quality data, the UCASS is an important information source on the Canadian university sector and makes crucial research and analysis possible. Moreover, given the changing nature of higher education, the survey allows StatCan to take a snapshot, year by year, of its evolution. These pictures make for revealing and interesting historical comparisons.

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